“We both really realized we made a big mistake back in 2008 because both of our states went for President Obama,” he said. “I hope you’re all ready to fix that problem next year.”
McDonnell’s remarks to a crowd of more than 400 at a fundraiser for New Hampshire Republicans is his first major national address since taking the helm of the Republican Governors Association — which did nothing to quell speculation that he could be a vice presidential running mate.
In a sometimes humorous, often history-filled speech, McDonnell spoke of the many similarities between the two states, including low unemployment and love of NASCAR. He received the loudest applause when he mentioned the need to tap the nation’s natural resources as part of a complete energy plan and to turn New Hampshire into a right-to-work state.
“We have a country that is now facing some tough issues,” he said. “It is time for a change.”
McDonnell spoke in the historic capital city at a fundraiser for a state GOP in disarray after an internal feud between tea party activists and establishment Republicans led to the resignation of the state party chairman. Tickets were $100 and $175, which included a VIP reception with McDonnell.
Previous party events have included boldface Republican names such as presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) and Karl Rove, adviser to then-President George W. Bush.
Republican strategist Ron Bonjean
, a former aide to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.), said McDonnell made a “smart move” by traveling to New Hampshire because it will increase interest in his appearing on the GOP ticket next year. “He’s new on the national scene,” Bonjean said. “This trip will be viewed as whether he can be successful.”
In response to questions from reporters Monday night, McDonnell said that he would not enter the presidential race and that it was too early to talk about a possible vice presidential slot. He added that he has not spoken to the presidential candidates about running mates.
“Nobody’s thinking about that except for you,” he told reporters. “The only thing those nine Republicans care about now is how are they going to get the nomination, and they’ll worry about that sometime next year.”
In July, Romney reportedly said at a Virginia Beach fundraiser that McDonnell would be on “any candidate’s short list” for vice president. But this month, while appearing with McDonnell at a fundraiser in Richmond, Texas Gov. Rick Perry avoided a question about whether he would consider McDonnell for the No. 2 spot.